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Arkansas carries out first double execution in the US for 16 years


The first double execution to take place in the US in 16 years was carried out by Arkansas on Monday night amid a fierce dispute over whether the prisoners were subjected to a botched procedure amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

In dramatic events that erupted a little over an hour after the first prisoner, Jack Jones, was put to death, a federal judge stepped in and temporarily stayed the lethal injection of the second, Marcel Williams, on grounds that Jones’ execution might have been unconstitutional. In frantic legal wrestling, the state conceded that it had spent some time trying to insert an IV line into Jones’ neck, but had failed in the endeavour.

The deputy solicitor general, Nicholas Bronni, admitted in a court filing that the execution team had tried “to place a central line in Jones’ neck, but the attempt was unsuccessful”.

Lawyers representing Williams instantly protested to the courts that it had taken 45 minutes for the execution team to find a vein into which they could inject the lethal cocktail into Jones. The attorneys warned that their client was obese, weighing 400 pounds, and that would render finding his veins even more difficult than his fellow death row inmate.

Three media witnesses were allowed in to see both executions. But the value of their testimony was limited in one crucial regard: they were only permitted to enter the death chamber after the IV lines had been placed into the each prisoner’s veins, which means that there is no independent verification of whether or not the early stages of the death protocol were botched.